MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Tacoma Baking Co. owner found guilty of $350K COVID-19 loan fraud

Nov 16, 2023, 4:42 PM

tacoma baking covid-19 fraud...

U.S. Department of Justice, Western Washington (MyNorthwest file photo)

(MyNorthwest file photo)

A co-owner of Tacoma Baking Co. pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud in connection to obtaining $350,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan funds.

The co-owner, Jessica Heinlein, obtained three loans using fraudulent information, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Most of the information in the applications was fraudulent and the money was not used exclusively for payroll as required.

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“Heinlein made the first loan application on behalf of Tacoma Baking Company in April 2020,” Tessa Gorman, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, wrote in a prepared statement. “In the application, she claimed two of the company’s eight owners were ‘sole owners’ of the company. Heinlein created email accounts in the names of the two people she designated as ‘sole owners’ so that she could respond to any questions from financial institutions.”

Heinlein then forged the signatures of the two owners and provided copies of their driver’s licenses without their permission. The loan funds were deposited in Heinlein’s personal account, and she used some of the money for her personal expenses.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) also paid nearly $25,000 in interest and processing fees on the loan.

Heinlein sought PPP loans twice more under the name “Jessica DeVisser Consulting” in January and April 2021.

As Jessica DeVisser, she spoke with The Tacoma News Tribune in 2020 acknowledging claims made by employees that paychecks were sometimes late when the bakery was in operation. Some employees were compensated in cash and tips were withheld due to inaccurate hour tallies. In addition to bounced checks, workers said they had to chase managers for weeks in person and by phone or text message to receive their pay stubs and that they were sometimes paid in cash for their wages and promised bonuses without accompanying paperwork.

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Per Washington state law, employers must provide pay stubs that show the rate of pay, hours worked, gross wages and all deductions along with the paycheck, whether on paper or digitally.

Heinlein has agreed to pay restitution to the Small Business Administration of $360,881. The amount includes the loan amounts as well as fees and interest paid by the SBA. Heinlein will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle on February 12, 2024.

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